Change for the better

[attach]5506[/attach]Positive changes started happening at George Webster Elementary School when Nancy Steinhauer became the principal.

“You can feel the difference when you walk into the school,” said office administrator, Cheryl Stobart, who has worked with Steinhauer for almost six years. “The energy is so positive — she brings that.”

Steinhauer is one of 40 who have been honoured as Canada’s Outstanding Principals for 2012.

Since starting at the school four years ago, Steinhauer has been working closely with parents and students to build the school’s community.

“I was surprised, there’s a lot of people doing good work,” said Steinhauer. “Everything I’ve done has been with a team.”

In March of 2011 Steinhauer and her fundraising committee raised money to open a pediatric clinic in the school, making them the second school in the Toronto District School Board to have one.

The clinic, which is open two days a week, serves students from 16 schools giving them access to a pediatrician, a nurse and family practitioner.

“A clinic was needed because so many kids were being referred (to clinics) who didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Steinhauer.

Steinhauer and her committee, a group of loyal members who have stuck with her over the years, aim for one big fundraiser each year to raise funds for the clinic, said Stobart.

Last year the committee raised over $50,000 to help run the clinic. “We raised enough money to keep it open for two years,” Stobart said.

The school is also open seven days of the week and community groups use it as a neighbourhood hub for activities like an after school program, martial arts classes, Islamic school, and parenting courses.

“We try to be at the heart of the community,” she said.

Parents line up to get their children into programs, said parent Jacqueline Smith, who has two kids who attend George Webster.

“I often think that I’m very glad this is the place we went to when we started here,” said Smith, who arrived in Canada from Jamaica in 2009.

Attendance at parent council meetings has grown to 20 members since Steinhauer first came to the school. They also have 100 volunteers each year, she said.

“Nancy’s amazing, she’s always so positive. When there’s a problem, she comes up with an answer always,” said secretary of parent council, Jessica Saville-Dumais, whose daughter is in senior kindergarten.

The school has also earned the highest level of achievement for boys in reading, writing and math over the last five years, said Steinhauer.

Stobart says she is constantly learning from Steinhauer.

“She’s so infectious with her attitudes for helping children,” said Stobart. “She’s making the community a better place.”